A friend was telling me a story about her daughter. She said her daughter had a friend who lived in her neighborhood and went to her school. When the two were at home, her friend was nice to her and fun to play with. When they were at school, this friend was consistently mean to her.
One day my friend’s daughter decided she’d had enough. She told her “friend” that she didn’t like the way she treated her at school. She said that if her friend wasn’t nicer to her at school, than she would no longer play with her at home.
Following this conversation, this friend would come over almost every day, knock on the door, and ask if my friend’s daughter wanted to play. My friend would ask her daughter who would invariably reply, “No thank you.” This went on for three months. Finally one day when the neighbor came over to ask to play, the answer was yes. When her mom asked her what happened, she said that her friend was nicer to her at school.
What struck my about this story is how much relational intelligence this little eight-year-old girl had. This little girl was very clear that this friendship was costing her too much. She decided to stand up for what she deserved even if it meant she might lose the friendship. Many adults couldn’t do what she did.
This little girl knew she deserved to be treated well and she stood behind that belief. In order for you to be able to clean up your relationships, you too need to know that you deserve to be treated well. You also need to be willing to stand behind this belief…just like this little girl did. Once you internalize this and believe it, you will be able to act on it.
When someone in your close circle doesn’t treat you well or violates one of the three basic rules of engagement (see previous post), address it directly. First, speak honestly to the person involved about the behavior. Let her/him know what the behavior is and clearly state you don’t like it. Next make a direct request that s/he change it. Finally, back your words up with actions and set a limit every time s/he does this behavior.
If you follow these steps and the behavior continues, then perhaps it’s time to get rid of the old and make room for healthier relationships that will fuel, inspire, soothe, and even push you towards positive growth. If this little eight- year- old girl can do it so can you.
Challenge: Write down your rules of engagement. For each rule, decide what limit you will set if it is broken. Choose one rule at a time to enforce starting today. Be strong and set the limit when necessary–even if it means having conflict in the relationship.